Thursday, September 03, 2015

Review: Ross Poldark

Winston Graham
Ross Poldark
By Winston Graham
Sourcebooks, 2015

About the Book

In the first novel in Winston Graham’s heartwarming, gripping saga set in the windswept landscape of Cornwall, Ross Poldark returns to England from war, looking forward to a joyful homecoming with his beloved Elizabeth. But when he discovers that his father has died, his home is overrun by livestock and drunken servants, and Elizabeth—believing Ross to be dead—is now engaged to his cousin, he has no choice but to start his life anew.

My Review

It was windy. The pale afternoon sky was shredded with clouds; the road, grown dustier and more uneven in the past hour, was scattered with blown and rustling leaves.

The novel opens with the book’s hero, Ross Poldark, returning to Cornwall in the fall of 1783. He’s returning from war, learning that his father is dead and hasn’t left him much money to work his estate (Nampara) with—and also that the woman he thought was his one true love is engaged to another man, Ross’ cousin, Francis. But Ross Poldark is resilient, stubborn, someone who knows what he wants and has the gumption to fight for it. Mainly, he will not give up on his home and his mine to try to find a life elsewhere. He may be tempted to fight for Elizabeth. But mainly the battle is internal: more of a fighting to get her out of his mind and heart.

Is the novel a romance? Yes and no. Yes, Ross thinks he’s madly in love with Elizabeth. And yes, the novel does chronicle his romance with Demelza toward the end. But in many ways, it is not a romance novel. Readers meet dozens of characters from all social classes. For example, the dramatic relationships of Jinny and Jim Carter and Verity and Captain Blamey. Readers spend a lot of time with the lower classes, seeing the effects of poverty up close. And there is a sense of injustice at times at how they’re treated and the very lack of opportunities that keep them trapped right where they are. In certain situations Ross is understanding and becomes something of their champion. Not that this becomes his full-time job, righting the wrongs, fighting injustice, giving voice to those without. It doesn’t. But he is a hard worker; he does dirty his own hands and work alongside others. The more he becomes one of them, the less his own class wants to do with him—or so it seems. There are always exceptions!

Ross can be impulsive in his wanting to do the right thing, for example, when he brings home  thirteen-year-old Demelza to be his servant. Does the girl desperately want to escape her own miserable home life where she’s often beaten? Yes. Very much. Once Ross sees the scars on her back and learns her story, he wants to protect her. So he offers a job. But how will everyone else respond? Will her father let her go without a fight? Without trouble? Not likely! And what will his own class think of this decision? They find it strange and unusual!

Readers get to spend a lot of time with Demelza, Jud, and Prudie. And I was pleasantly surprised to find that Prudie and Jud actually like Demelza in the book and aren’t trying to rid themselves of her every five minutes. The novel closes in December of 1787.

Do I have favorite characters? Yes. I really love Verity. And, of course, Ross and Demelza come to mind as well. If I didn’t care about them, then I couldn’t like the book overall. I loved, some scenes, though not every single scene or chapter equally. But there were places where I just adored this story.

Becky Laney


Michelle D Ule said...

We bought all Winston Graham's Poldark books when they were reissued in the late 1970s. Both my husband and I have read them several times. We loved the first series, but think the new one is even better!

After the 1970 PBS Poldark released, Graham wrote four or so more books, maybe more, and that became Poldark II on PBS in 1981ish. Those books are more soap opera-like and follow the (mis)fortunes of the family and children. Tragic and not as rich, IMHO, as the original four.

But great reads and we loved them.

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